BENNINGTON -- In nearly three decades of coaching the Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling team, Scott Legacy has mentored dozens of state champions and a couple handfuls of New England and national champions.
All that experience couldn't help Legacy over the weekend, as he was tabbed to coach a high-school all-star Team USA at the 18th annual Cliff Keen Dream Team Classic against Team Georgia in Marietta, Ga.
"They were all really coachable, I earned their respect early on," Legacy said. "My biggest role was to make sure they worked together as a team and win the dual meet at the same time."
Legacy scored an invitation in March from Cody Bryant, the managing editor of Wrestling USA magazine, to lead the USA squad on April 13, based on Legacy's impressive record, coaching 158 individual state champions and winning 622 dual meets in his career. He's also won 153 tournaments since 1985.
He nearly ignored the message, planning to be on vacation in Florida during the spring break from school. Upon finding out the event was in Georgia, he accepted the invitation.
Legacy traveled to the Peach State for a day of practice with the team and was struck by how business-like the guys were in the wrestling room.
"It was all business, when they came in, I gave out the drill list," Legacy said. "I wasn't teaching, per se, I was running through a practice. They went about their business and did what they had to do."
For one of the first times in his career, Legacy was the one doing the learning.
"I did some research on the wrestlers, we talked about strategy and my role with them," Legacy said. "It was a pretty smooth transition."
Most of the Team USA wrestlers are ranked in the top 5 in their weight classes, including Pennsylvania's Scotty Parker (120), Zeke Moisey (126), Jason Nolf (145), TC Warner (152) and Garrett Peppelman (160), Oklahoma's Chandler Rogers (170), Texas' Bo Nickal (182), Minnesota's Nathan Rose (195) and Illinois' Brian Rossi (113).
"I told them my philosophy, but I had to observe their tendencies during practice," Legacy said. "There were a couple of times when guys would do things I wouldn't like, but I had to let it go."
After practice, Legacy and his wife, Kelley, joined USA Wrestling and Cliff Keen officials as well as all the wrestlers and their families for a barbecue.
"It was a really cool experience. I met the parents of the kids I was coaching and we did a meet and greet," Legacy said. "They were very nice to my wife and I."
It wasn't the only time during the weekend Legacy felt like a celebrity. Many youth wrestlers asked for Team USA autographs before the match on Sunday.
"I probably signed 30 or 40 autographs. It was unbelievable," Legacy said.
On the other side, Legacy said he knew many of the Team Georgia wrestlers -- both from his trips to national events like Super 32 and Fargo and from Catamount wrestling going to the Roswell Summer Duals.
Right before the match, Legacy gave Team USA a pep talk.
"I told them that Georgia wants to win on its home turf," Legacy said. "We were heavy favorites and we didn't want to be the team that got beat."
Team USA eventually won the dual meet, 37-15.
Starting at 220 pounds, Team Georgia's Matt Moore pinned Sage Hecox for a 6-0 lead, then USA's Billy Miller, from Ohio, pinned MJ Couzans to tie the match.
At 113, Georgia's Alonzo Allen upset Rossi, 9-4, to take the lead. The next two Georgia wrestlers -- Sean Russell at 120 and Ryan Millhof at 126, from the same high school (Collins Hill) -- beat their USA counterparts to make the score 15-6.
After that, the USA won the rest of the matches, including three major decisions by Tyler Smith at 132, Warner at 152 and Peppelman at 160.
The feature match of the meet was Nickal against Chip Ness at 182, the match set up specifically by the organizers with Nickal bumping up from his natural weight of 170 and Ness dropping from 195.
"I heard so much about Nickal," Legacy said. "He doesn't avoid anything. He has a wide-open style to the match."
Nickal's father, Bo's high school coach, sat with Legacy as an assistant during the match, a contest that Nickal won 12-3.
"[His dad] was really knowledgeable, but really nervous," Legacy said.
Legacy said he was a bit surprised on how many knew and cited the Mount Anthony program during the trip.
"I had people coming up to me and saying, ‘I've heard about you,'" Legacy said. "People from all different places talking about our program. I felt bad because they knew who I was and I didn't know who they were. That's humbling."
Legacy plans on taking a lot of information back to the Patriots, including video and training ideas.
"I talked to the kids about their focus and training and some do a lot more than us," Legacy said. "I videotaped how they do their thing, always ready for the next [drill]. I tried to drink in as much as I could in a 24-hour period."